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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Deepening the Ground of our Gratitude

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. I am more balanced in my enjoyment of it this year having just finished reading, The Hole in our Gospel by Richard Stearns. In the book, Stearns tells how he became the president of World Vision. It ranges from his difficult upbringing, determination to acquire an Ivy League school education, struggle to come to Christ from atheism, to becoming a committed follower of Christ, to CEO of the Lennox Corporation, to reluctant president of World Vision. His call experience reminds me of Moses’ reflectance to follow God’s call as recorded in Exodus 3. The book is worth reading for the sake of his story, but there is much more in the book than that. The second half is a tremendous challenge for American Christians to see the world from God's perspective and live out the full implications of the gospel toward the needs of the world. I did not take as a guilt inducing, but as a challenge and stiff reminder, that to whom much is given much is required.

I certainly believe there is a place for celebrations like Thanksgiving. But we could stand to elevate what provokes our gratitude. The things for which we are grateful reveal what we value and what is the aim of our lives. It seems there is a tendency to focus on material blessings and God's provision for material needs at Thanksgiving. But does that mean that those without many material blessings have little for which to be grateful? Why do some of God's people suffer, i.e. believers in many third world countries, while others, many American believers, live in relative comfort and affluence? Does God love those who are affluent more than those who suffer? Does God pour out blessings only on those who are obedient and withhold them from the disobedient? Can we discern who is obedient and disobedient by a person’s financial wealth? I think we know the answer to these questions, gleaned from the book of Job and other sources.

In Ephesians 1:15-23 Paul expresses gratitude for people and for the work of God within them at the beginning of a tremendous prayer. Perhaps we would be living with a better awareness of God's work in the world and could elevate our purpose in the world by taking note of what provokes Paul's gratitude. Perhaps this would block us from a mere recounting of gratitude for our relative wealth, if set our sights similarly to Paul's on what generated gratitude in him. Tomorrow, I will post further reflections on this text regarding this theme.

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